Posts filed under Whiteness

[Video] On the Occasion of Joseph Conrad's Death, Driscoll - Lecture @ FIPH

On June 13, 2017, I delivered a bit of new work to the folks at the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover (FIPH), where I've been a fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. Below is the abstract for the talk, "On the Occasion of Joseph Conrad's Death: Anti-Heroes and Negative Dialectics in the Western Imagination, Still." The talk turns to some interesting data from Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford (and others) to think about Conrad's life and death as an allegory for contemporary anxieties surrounding the death or collapse of the West. Take a look here at or at the FIPH Vimeo page (which has a lot of material you might find interesting).

“You will ask: Why death? Why not some alternative? Flight or prison? Well: prison would be an unendurable travelling through Time, flight an equally unendurable travelling through Time with Space added. Both these things are familiar: Death alone, in spite of all the experience that humanity has had of Death, is the utterly unfamiliar.” -Joseph Conrad
English Modern writer Joseph Conrad is a spectre, neither living nor dead, but a perpetual haunting for westerners in the form of his literary legacy and the anti-heroic stories he wrote, which force readers into a confrontation with the banality and smugness of western arrogance. By this reading, Conrad also serves as an analogy for western notions of loss, melancholy, and (cultural) death, writ large, today. At once alive yet under seeming threat from an “other” that over time has been rendered as “all” others, westerners – whoever we may be – might find wisdom in lamenting the death of Conrad. This lecture turns to lesser known works of Conrad just before his death (in 1924), along with fellow authors’ thoughts on Conrad’s death, to explore the relationship of anti-heroes, negative identities, and their god of death.

Thanks for taking a look!


Win or Lose: Will We Tolerate Trump’s Deplorables?

Since the 1960s, many Americans have done the necessary work of pointing out past (and current) moral failures when it comes to race and gender. Yet, too few of us have taken seriously the psychical harm done to many voters by a half-century of (mostly) positive social changes in the country. Democrats have fetishized diversity to the extent many white Americans do not see themselves represented in the party, while the Republican playbook’s worst-kept secret is that they have carefully stoked racial animus among white voters. For decades, Washington told white Americans: “you don’t deserve to be angry” or “stay angry.” One result has meant a growing percentage of white Americans feel resentment that their voices, concerns, and pain do not matter. Progressives have acted as if white folks feel no pain, which is tragically ironic considering many white folks have thought the same thing about black folks. Whether phantom or hidden, pain is still pain, right?

Trump, MiloJonesRichard Spencer, and others from the “alt-right” are scratching an existential itch a lot of folks feel. But they aren’t offering anything akin to civic engagement. Trump is the latest name for an old white card played when it feels tougher to be heard. Historically, white Americans have made very bad decisions in these moments. Lynching, the KKK, Jim and Jane Crow Laws (segregation laws), and the incarceration epidemic all began in moments where rich white businessmen tapped into racial resentment and turned white anger into a special interest. Look up the Louisiana Gubernatorial race of 1872. Is this what Trump means by “Making America Great, Again?”

Our political failure to take white frustrations seriously has seen them fall prey to chicken hawks and us become hawks, as well; too smug (as Democrats) to show compassion to hurting white folks; or, too ashamed (as Republicans) that the party of Lincoln went the way of the Southern Strategy virtually assuring that race would end up the proxy war over far more fundamental American values. How difficult would it be for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to actually speak out against racism? And doesn’t Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ comment amount to building a wall of her own? All voters would appreciate moral leadership and leaders with morals.

Regardless of who wins or loses the election, when will Americans decide to stop playing a political game rooted in the rejection of others? White pain has been pimped out before, and many are being pimped again by Trump’s abuses — some of his biggest victims are his supporters. At best, rejecting these “deplorables” makes us their enablers. At worst, we have been their groomers.

My dad used to say that when people talk about the good ole days, don’t trust them, but don’t forget to love them, either. What Trump offers, by his admission, is a return to the past where rejections based on race and gender were rampant. He may soon be out of the news cycle, but his “deplorables” are not going anywhere. We might do well to greet them with the same toleration we expect so much from them. If we’re so certain American democracy is truly great, then let’s trust it is strong enough to hear all of its voices.

Posted on November 2, 2016 and filed under Whiteness.

What Does it Cost to Be White?

“What does it cost to be a Negro? In Aiken, South Carolina, it cost a man his sight.”

“What does it cost to be white? In Aiken, South Carolina, it cost a man his soul.”

The NAACP turns 107 today. February 12 also marks the anniversary of the brutal police beating of African American Isaac Woodard. In 1946, Woodard had been recently honorably discharged from the Army, and, while still in uniform, beat with such ferocity by “Officer X” of Aiken, South Carolina that it left Woodard permanently blind. Police brutality is nothing new. Neither are voices of resistance — black, brown, & white. Woodard’s case was publicized thanks largely to Orson Welles.

It does not take courage or a national platform to speak out against racial injustice. It takes willingness and anger at living in a world of white lies.

“I know what happened, it is very simple. They woke up the wrong man.”

#BlackLivesMatter #WhiteLiesMatter #WhiteLiestheBook

Posted on February 13, 2016 and filed under Whiteness.

What's Really behind the Confederate Flag Protests?

On this year’s 4th of July holiday, many white Americans are feeling their identity encroached upon and their opinions ignored. Especially in the south, many whites feel that the recent focus on removing the confederate flag from public spaces is an attack on our heritage, our past, and our very identities. Here is the totality of what white southern identity looks like, as some would have us think: